Endive Intimidation

This morning I took my very first Bikram Yoga class, and I am glad to say that is was very doable. No fainting, no nausea, no collapsing, and no dying (hurray!). I like to think my Mexican roots make me more heat resistant, and ofcourse I was very well prepared (hydrated and with an emptyish stomach). Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying I was any good at it. My body could by no means be called flexible and my standing leg was as wobbly as a bowl of jelly pudding. But afterwards I felt GREAT and I now get how that feeling is highly addictive ('look at the sky! I see clearer! I love this fresh air! I can smell better! I love everyone! Why the hell is it raining again and why are all these tourists clogging the bike lanes!').
Well, let's see how I hold up at my second class.

In the meanwhile I am on a slight 7 day detox of only fruits and veggies (and lots of green monsters), battling a last few excess pounds. So no recipes from me for you, even though I am very anxious to try some of the delicious recipes in my recently acquired copy of Veganomicon.

And I need your help. I picked up my vegetable subscription today and while unpacking at home I was confronted by a very intimidating killer monster sized head of endive (which has, in my humble opinion, no legit reason for being in a one-person-veggiebag). What's a girl to do? I cannot eat all of it as a salad, I'll turn green!


More Than I Can Chew

Oops! I've been taking an unexpected blog break, sorry for that! Life's been busy and I've been trying to (as Donny Hathaway sings) hang onto the world as it spins around. I've been singing, swinging, working, AND cooking a lot. I am also very pleased to announce that I've been hitting the gym again and (inspired by The Fruit Pursuit's Sabine) finally decided to try out Bikram Yoga classes starting this monday. For those of you who are not in the know: it's 90 minutes of doing 26 yoga poses in a heated room (approx 40 degrees celsius). Yep. I'll let you know how that went, IF I survive and don't drown in my own puddle of sweat.

All very well and all, let's talk FOOD. Good, lovely, comforting and nourishing veggie food that makes you feel like you've been hugged by a fluffy unicorn. I don't feel like typing out recipes so you'll have to do with a bunch of pictures. Food porn, as we bloggers like to say. Well if my pictures are food porn, I do hope they are on the classy side, not the cheapo german mustache kind.

We vegans love our tofu scrambles, this one's with tomato, mushrooms, garlic and fresh parsley.
(crumble tofu, fry in a pan and season with salt, pepper, turmeric and nutritional yeast)

My friend Marieke came over and because I love her very much I made her raw zucchini pasta with cashewsauce, grilled eggplant and oven baked sweet potato fries.
I visited my sister and because I love her very much as well I did a rerun on the raw zucchini pasta. She watched and learned and is now as hooked as I am.

Almost every single day I start off with a Green Monster. Yeah, that's the kind of health freaky girl I am. This particular one was a spinach, banana and coconut water mixture.

Some days my Mexican roots speak up and scream in my ear about baked black beans, guacamole, jalapeno peppers and cilantro (and green beans, and vegetarian nuggets). There is no escaping those cravings, so there.

And last but not least, a pasta (actually, a very fancy wild garlic spelt spaghetti) with parsnip, rocket salad, tomato and sunflowerseed pesto.

That's it for now people, I'll try and be a better blogger and be back soon.


Coco's Carrot Cake

I finally baked something! Raise your hand if you approve! After hours, days, months of drooling over other blogs' sweet food porn pictures, I finally found the perfect opportunity to bake my favourite cake: packed with carrots, walnuts, a lot of spice and everything nice. I already mentioned before that tomorrow I'll be singing at an Amy Winehouse Tribute Session. Host and organizing wonderwoman of this session is my friend and Very Good Singer Coco. Within a week she managed to get together a whole band, with horn section and everything, and about 15 vocalists all singing their own favourite Amy song. So for rehearsals today, I chose to contribute by bringing everyone the joy of CAKE. And it worked, the thing was more popular than me, even though I was sporting a red dress and matching lipstick. Let's hope some of it's shine'll stay with me on stage tomorrow.

I roughly followed the recipe by Hell Yeah It's Vegan and made a few alterations, inspired by the carrot cake in Lisette's Ecofabulous book. Less oil, more applesauce, less sugar and more coconut. And MORE SPICE because I like it like that. There we go! (You see a part is missing from the cake? No idea how that happened, it certainly has nothing to do with me wanting to try the cake and not being able to stop 'trying' little pieces and hoping noone would notice. I swear.)

Coco's Vegan Carrot Cake

2 1/2 cups pastry flour (I used spelt)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
3 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp ground nutmeg
2 tsp allspice (piment)
1 tsp vanilla
3 tbsp ground flaxseed mixed with
1/2 cup warm water
3 egg substitutes (No Egg or EnerG)
1/2 cup sunflower oil
1/2 cup agave syrup
1 cup applesauce
2 cups shredded carrots
1 thumb fresh ginger, grated
1 cup walnuts, chopped
3/4 cup shredded coconut
1 pack Tofutti Creamcheese
1 1/4 cup powdered sugar
juice and zest of 1 lemon

Preheat the oven to 350F (gas mark 4). Cover the bottom of a 24cm baking pan with parchment paper, grease the sides with sunflower oil and dust with a little flour. Mix together the flour with the spices and baking powder and soda. In a large bowl, mix up the flax 'eggs', the egg substitutes, oil, agave and applesauce. Gradually stir in the dry ingredients until fully dissolved. Finally fold in the carrots, walnuts, ginger and coconut. It'll have the consistency of a thick cake batter. Pour into prepared pan and bake for about 40/45 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.

When completely cool, whip up a frosting with the creamcheese, sugar, lemonjuice and zest and cover the cake. Enjoy with your friends while singing along to some Amy Winehouse.


Vegan 'smoked salmon' pasta

In the last few months I have been focussing mostly on new culinary adventures, using earlier neglected vegetables, legumes (ahoy puy lentils!) and soyproducts, and on learning new techniques. But the time has come, my friends, to start a new project. Sometimes I will succeed, sometimes I'll have to take my defeat as a self proclaimed kitchen heroine, but there is no way around it. It is time to start veganizing some of my own 'before-vegan' staple dinners. There are a few dishes I always used to come back to, in times of no inspiration, lack of time or because I had guests coming over and wanted to stay on the save side. Or mostly, because I wanted to crawl into their loving comfort food arms and purr like a pussycat.
One of those dishes was a pasta dish that simply asked for sour cream, mushrooms, smoked salmon and a heap of fresh dill. And pasta, ofcourse, otherwise ceci ne'st pas une pasta dish. A difficult one to veganize, for googling 'vegan smoked salmon' did NOT get me a lot of ideas, other than creating 'vegelox', which involves carrot pulp and dulse (seaweed) flakes and did not sound all that appealing. So I decided not to substitute the actual salmon, but to use the combined flavours of the original dish as a starting point. Please give a big hand of applause to smoked tofu, salicornia and oat cream. And yes people, I can truly say, my first veganizing mission was more than accomplished. I hit gold. (and future dinner guests, you will know I love you if I decide to serve you this)

Vegan 'smoked salmon' pasta
(2 servings)

1 block of smoked tofu (200 gr)
250 gr brown mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 red onion, minced
2/3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 hands salicornia (about 1 1/2 cup)
250 ml of non-dairy cream (I used oat cream and that worked out great)
white wine (optional)
1 large bunch of fresh dill
black pepper
juice of 1/2 lemon
2 portions of your favourite pasta (I used spelt penne)

Slice the tofu into thin strips, about 1/2 cm thick and then cut them in half. Fry the tofu strips in sunflower or coconut oil until goldenbrown on either side and season with some seasalt and black pepper. Take them out of the pan and place on plate covered with kitchen towel. In the same pan, use the remaining oil to sautée the chopped garlic, onion and mushrooms over medium heat. In the meanwhile, boil up some of your favourite pasta. Add the non-dairy cream to the mushrooms (and some white wine if you really want to get this dish a gold medal) and bring to a soft boil. When your pasta is almost finished, add the salicornia, fried tofu strips and chopped dill to the sauce and season with black pepper and salt to taste. You won't need a lot of salt because of the natural saltiness of the salicornia. Serve on top of the drained pasta and finish off with a squeeze of lemonjuice. Try and find your marine-themed plate to make it look even more fishy and EAT!


Magical Healing Black Bean Soup

Wow, it's been a week since I last posted. Time flies, especially when you're busy and having (a little bit too much) fun. It was a crazy week, with working, singing and volunteering in a kitchen at a vegan dinner for 150 (!) people, which was amazing. But I'll post about that later. Also, seeing this amazing speech by Gary Yourofsky inspired me to work on a post that goes a bit deeper into my transition to vegan, my no-doubt-about-it keeping up of this lifestyle and the questions and comments I got in the last few months.

But, save it for another day, right now it's all about food. Yesterday I wasn't feeling too well, to say the least. My throat hurt and I just wanted to sleep all day and stay under my blanquet, waiting 'til everything got better. And I wanted magical healing soup. Coming from a Mexican father, I am a sucker for black beans (and cilantro, ofcourse) and I think this simple and classic dish really has magic powers. You know, I might put it up behind a mic in a candle-lit room and have a healing session. For an adequate entrance fee, ofcourse, that is how these things work. For all you believers, here's the recipe.

Magical Healing Black Bean Soup

1 can of black beans
1 can of peeled tomatoes OR
3/4 fresh tomatoes, chopped
1 large onion
2 cloves of garlic
1/2 red pepper
1 lime
1 tsp ground corianderseed
1 tsp dried epazote OR
1 tsp dried oregano
pinch of salt
1 ripe avocado
fresh cilantro
Chop up the onion, garlic and red pepper and sautée in some oil. Add the tomatoes, black beans, corianderseed, salt and epazote and let simmer on low heat for about 20 minutes. Mash it up (I used a hand-held blender) until soupy but still chunky. Sprinkle with limejuice, avocado and cilantro.

This afternoon I was feeling a lot better and I had two recipes to try out so I went to work in my tiny lil' kitchen. I made the baked pistachio falafel by Green Kitchen Stories and some creamy hummus using Vegangela's amazing tip (it's all about taking them skins off!). It was all very yummy and tasty, paired with steamed carrots with a drip of buttery canola oil, sundried tomatoes and slices of raw red beet in lemonjuice and vinegar. Just have a look and tell me you wouldn't be a happy camper when presented this rainbow platter.

Now, I'm off to work on my new blogpost, cleaning up the kitchen while listening to Amy Winehouse in preparation of an amazing tribute I'll be performing at this sunday together with about 14 other singers. Amy, I will not drink to you but I WILL sing to you.


Seitan vs. TVP: The Satay Showdown

Today the game is on. In an ultimate battle, two chunky meat replacements fight for the top spot.
OR: I wanted to make some nice vegan satay and I couldn't decide if seitan or TVP would be better, so I decided to make both. As always, the whole idea started with a vegetable and a craving, in this case a big bag of fresh organic green beans and an unexplainable wish for spicy satay sauce. Yesterday, during Tuesday Juiceday Schmuesday, I made some fresh seitan, soaked some TVP chunks and let them marinate overnight. I am not sharing a whole recipe here, mostly because in all my enthousiastic and instinctive cooking I didn't think to write down exact amounts of what I threw in the bowl. I was way too busy singing along with some Aretha Franklin and pretending to be a TV chef whirling around the kitchen, with all the neat little bowls of ingredients and all. But let me tell you that the marinade I made consisted of shoyu, lime juice, agave, ground corianderseeds, ground laos, lemongrass, garlic, ginger, shallots and a real hot red chilli pepper, all mixed in the foodprocessor. 
An unexpected advantage of vegan cooking is that you have to be a lot less scared about cross contamination. Ain't it great that I used the marinade as a base for the peanut sauce? I just sauteed the whole lot on a medium fire with some extra garlic and onion, added some organic peanutbutter, coconut cream, ginger syrup and shoyu and there was my perfect little darling calorie bombing sauce. 

 Now for the Satay Showdown: as I was putting the TVP chunks on the sticks I already noticed they were a bit 'tough'. As for the seitan, it was still nice and moist. I had my grill on high heat and everything was ready in just a few minutes (after a slight accident with my grill catching flame and me not being able to see because of al the smoke, but let's not talk about that). Result time!

The seitan had really taken in the flavours, the texture was juicy but a bit on the chewy side. Also, it didn't respond too well on the hot grill and the little amount of fat. Frying might have been a better option for this baby. I'd rate it at a 7.

The TVP was taking the grill love a lot better and looked pretty promising. But after the first bite I knew it would not be able to compete. Marinating it overnight had not made it soft and flavoury, but tough and chewy. No good honey, no good! So much for good looks, ladies and gentleman. I'd say: an astonishing 4 for effort. 
In the next few weeks I'll be trying some more of the same style grilling with tempeh, tofu, kebabs from De Vegetarische Slager (The Vegetarian Butcher) and more. And then let the best of the best battle in a big finale with a whole testing panel! And some tv camera's and me in a new dress! Yeah! 

Today's actual winner was the green bean & peanutsauce combo. And the sweet and sour cucumber/raw zucchini salad I paired it with. Another victory for greens! (And yes, that is cilantro sprinkled on top, ofcourse)


Tuesday Juiceday Schmuesday

I really needed to do some detoxing and balancing out after all the food & alcohol last weekend. Luckily the scale didn't go all ballistic on me, but as we know weight is only weight and not an indication of health. So today I blessed with the name of 'Tuesday Juiceday Schmueseday'. Nothing but green monsters, fresh fruit juices and raw vegetables today. Let's see if I can do this on a weekly basis!

This morning started with a very friendly Green Monster consisting of fresh spinach, banana, blueberries and water.
It gave me plenty of energy to go and get a fair amount of vegetables, herbs and spices at the Albert Cuyp market, and pick up my bag of organic vegetables from my subscription. AND, while I was at the 'Blokker' in my ongoing search for a good and not too expensive salad spinner (in which I failed again, this is becoming a real quest) I picked up a lot of spice jars that were only 50 cents each. It's official now, I'm getting old, I get excited by just organizing my kitchen cabinets and putting labels on spice jars. And then taking pictures of them and putting them up on Facebook. This is not good, people.

Now I'm off to work, with a tupperware bowl of fresh tomato and bell pepper gazpacho. Tomorrow I will be back with a very special something something for which I just put some homemade seitan and some TVP chunks in a very spicy marinade. The game is on, and tomorrow, there will be only 1 winner. I'll let the tension build up from here...